Referendums Framework Bill introduced to Parliament

  • Hon Andrew Little

A Bill enabling the cannabis referendum to be held with the 2020 General Election has been introduced to Parliament today.

“The Government has committed to holding a referendum on legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis at the next General Election,” Minister of Justice Andrew Little says.

“This Bill provides the necessary legislative framework to govern the conduct of this referendum.” 

The Referendums Framework Bill focuses on the mechanical aspects of holding a referendum with the next General Election.

“The voting process is a vital feature of our democracy. By ensuring the same rules apply, as far as practicable, to both the general election and any referendum in 2020 the Government is working to safeguard this important process,” Andrew Little says.  

The Bill also includes rules around referendum advertising, which are similar to those used to regulate election advertising.

The question on the ballot paper will be decided by Order in Council.

“Advertising will be a key influencer in the public debate, providing information for voters. Therefore, it is important that these rules provide a balance between freedom of expression and transparency, so that voters know who is behind any advertising campaign.” 

The Bill does not include specific referendum-related material. Instead it includes mechanisms that link to other laws or regulations that will trigger the Bill to be used for a referendum.

“There has been discussion of a possible referendum being held in 2020 on the End of Life Choice Bill, a non-Government bill which is currently before Parliament. The Government has therefore developed the Referendums Framework Bill so it can be used for any such referendum. This provides greater clarity for the public and the Electoral Commission in 2020, by ensuring that the same framework and rules will apply,” Andrew Little says.